Perhaps the most lamentable form of emotion a human can feel is apathy. How can I accurately define apathy in a way that illustrates the true gravity of this emotion? Apathy is not ignorance; it is not oblivion. It is, in its true manifestation, a deep-seated doctrine that rejects the essence of being human, a self-imposed anaesthesia, a psychical narcosis.
Incidentally, earlier etymological interpretations of the word led people to understand it as a virtue that will pave the way to enlightenment. This apathy, they view as the detachment from all things physical and transient. Kantian philosophy even champions apathy as a state of freedom from worldly inclinations and desires. It is not wrong to eschew materialism for the practice of looking within oneself for the real and the enduring. But, to pledge adherence to apathy is to give up living itself. It is to stand by and watch life pass us by, to go through the motions of living without activity. It is to denounce beauty.
The most malignant thing about apathy is that it gives rise to mediocrity. Without the ability to feel for anything, what can be our benchmark for excellence? In fact, without the passion to undertake, we are only destitute drones working towards the completion of tasks at hand. Throughout the course of humanity, the breakthroughs we have achieved would never have happened without our fervent strive for answers, our blazing determination and even our daring blunders.
The beauty of human emotion is that despite giving us the handicap of fallibility, it is our teacher. It teaches us morality and holds us in check where ethical dilemmas are presented. Its greatest enemy, apathy, creates a void in which evil festers. Edmund Burke once said, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ For any self-respecting, feeling human, the guilt of inaction would be indelible on their conscience.
Postmodern adaptations of the word have associated apathy with unhealthy visions of emotionless killings. To me, apathy carries with it nihilistic undertones. I cannot deny that in today’s complex world, contradiction and ambiguity have driven people to lose faith in their beliefs. Repeated disappointments inflict blows on people more than they care to admit. Gradually, our subconscious mechanism to block distressing information makes us forget we are human.
I would rather be accused of being voracious than unfeeling. And if I die today, I want to go knowing I was devoutly spiritual instead of agnostic, that I was incensed rather than bitter, and that I was euphoric rather than relieved. I want to have fought for human injustices, loved like there was no tomorrow, and ached my heart to pieces.